St. Peter Claver presented Jazz Extravaganza: Economy Hall Revisited on a recent Saturday evening with a reception followed by the 14th annual concert. Mary Elizabeth Delatte Andry was the supervising producer.
Titled “The Magic of Music,” and “Treme: Where Music is Lived,” the event benefited St. Peter Claver Catholic School and limelighted the names of church pastor the Rev. J. Asare-Dankwah, and, for the school, principal Vanessa J. Chavis and vice principal Deacon Lawrence C. Houston. They extended thanks orally and in the printed program to the benefactors, patrons, friends, volunteers (48 in number, counting individuals and groups) and supporters for their “financial support, volunteer time and energy, and goods and services” for the school’s “quality education.” Because of the generosity of the above individuals, 300 students have had the quality education.
Twenty-six people figured on the roster of the gala’s Planning Committee, and as consultants, the names to know were master of ceremonies Warren A. Bell Jr., Alice J. Grooms, Gerard M. Johnson, Mona L. Duffel Jones, LeShawn A. Porter, Chris L. Price, Edith B. Reed, SPC Jazz Orchestra director Chris Severin, and Altrice E. Taylor.
Guests first arrived at the residence of the pastor for a patron party and the delights of keyboard entertainment by Theron Lewis, passed hors d’oeuvres and a full buffet purveyed by Dooky Chase Restaurant and The Bird Cage catering. Mingling were Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, state Sen. And Mrs. Edwin Murray, state Rep. Austin and Therese Badon, Judge Terri Love, New Orleans Superintendent of Police Michael Harrison, Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell, Warren Bell, Antoinette and Renard A. Boissiere, the Ken Carters, Simone and Louis Charbonnet, Charles Devins, Mr. and Mrs. Jay Banks, and Alden and Rhesa McDonald. To mention a few.
Then it was on to the concert! Musical makers were numerous, but headliners included Tonya Boyd-Cannon, soul vocalist and 2015 contestant on “The Voice”; James Rivers, smooth jazz and rhythm and blues saxophone virtuoso; and vocalist James Andrew, jazz and R&B trumpeter. Also, SPC’s The Temptin’ Temptations.
A highlight of the evening, when luminaries and bright lights were abundant, was the champagne toast to Benny Jones Sr. He’s the founder, leader and snare drummer of the Treme Brass Band and does double duty as the music director and member of the Black Men of Labor.
Jazz Extravaganza’s conclusion came with “Lagniappe Live: Naturally N’Awlins Finale” and its host of performers, including Dancing Clergy and the JE’s Secondliners.
More features of the chockablock evening were the Piano Bistro and the message “There’ll Be Dancing in the Street,” jumbo screen streaming of main stage performers, pianist Devin Boucree, a spirits bar (with King Zulu-Elect, 2016, Jay H. Banks among the seven celebrity bartenders), an oyster bar, and a silent auction table. All the while, music instilled glorious momentum.
Well over 650 people amassed at Notre Dame Seminary on South Carrollton Avenue for the annual Gala & Auction that hailed, as the honorary “chair” family, the Drago Cvitanovich Family. Deacon Carlo and Debbie Maniglia and Frank and Rhonda Tusa answered to auction chaircouples; David and Anna Jouandot, the patron party chaircouple; and to seminary advisers, the Very Rev. James Wehner (rector/president), Yvette LaCour and Christin Trusheim. Within the top donor category, Mary, Queen of Peace, were Gayle and Tom Benson and “Friend of the Seminary,” while the Chair of Peter, the next level, had The Azby Fund, Harry and Lorna Connick, the above Jouandots, Jane H. Nalty, and St. Patrick Church, Baton Rouge. Donor Harry Connick is the former district attorney for New Orleans.
Features of the event were manifold, starting with music by The Messy Cookers Jazz Band in the foyer, along with the pianism of seminarians David Frank, Matthew Hoffpauir and Jared Rodrigue. Black linens topped the tables on which jewel-toned floral arrangements were placed; seven other tables beckoned with silent auction items; and Leap of Faith “surprise bags” sold for $25, but contained items worth a minimum of $30. A live auction of 11 items included artwork by Brother Carl Bouchereau; football attractions from LSU and Les Miles; passes to the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience; dinner for eight at the purchaser’s home by Galatoire’s; and a seminarian-hosted fais-do-do, “won” by Callen and Coleen Hotard.
Now for the edible attractions! A slew of local restaurants and caterers fueled the fun, while a suite of sweets wowed everyone. The highlight of the evening was the Dessert Room, an entire room, where a cookie tree, Bananas Foster, Cuban flan, cakes, fudge, king cakes, chocolates and pastries made indulgence acceptable. “The Dessert Room was fabulous,” said Dr. Andrew “Andy” Orestano, one of the next tier donors, Apostles. Others in that listing were Joseph and Erin Caruso, Deacon Lloyd and Hillary Huck, Sandy and Stan Middleton, and Dominick and Georgette Sciortino of St. Bernard Drugs.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond mingled with the hundreds of attendees as did the above Rector the Rev. Wehner, Wendy Vitter, Mary Matalin, Cvitanoviches three in Klara, Tommy and Leanne, Guy and Nell Chiapetta, Patrick and Mitzi Taylor, Laura Ingraham, Mark and Sharon Rodi, Tim and Lisa Thriffiley, Frank and Paulette Stewart, David and Dottie Haydel, Tony and Dorinda Bordlee, and the above Carusos, Tusas, and Maniglias.
Generating gem excitement was Raymond’s Jewelry Raffle of a lady’s diamond dinner ring created exclusively for the seminary ado by Greg Raymond. It added its own sparkle to an evening when socializing shone.
Another Opening, Another Opera
To launch the 2015-16 season, the New Orleans Opera Association held “Opening Night Gala” prior to the first production of the season, “La traviata.” Guests first assembled outside in the Norman Treigle Plaza for cocktails before dining on the mezzanine level of the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts. Mr. and Mrs. Bruce A. Gordon — that’s Melissa and Bruce — chaired the event that included NOOA President Ranney Mize and spouse Emel, Meredith and Rawley Penick, general and artistic director Robert Lyall and Lauren, Women’s Guild President Betsy and Pat Dowling, NOOA Vice President Lawrence “Larry” Pugh III and Nina, development officer Scott and Lorraine Chotin, Betty Brooks Doss and Jim, Christine and Price LeBlanc, Dr. Erin and John Fleming, Catherine Burns Tremaine, Janet and Scott Howard, and French Consul General Gregor and Ingrid Trumel.
The Mizes and Penicks were “White by the Gate” top sponsors along with John G. Turner and Jerry G. Fischer.
Artist Tim Trapolin created the pretty invitation (depicting two symbolic camellias) and dedicated his original watercolor in honor of former board Chairman Edward F. “Ted” Martin and his wife, Louise. They now chair the Mastersigners, which is made up of opera lovers committed “to the financial stability of the New Orleans Opera.” The Martins are also beaming about the birth of twin grandchildren.
Socializing began around the fountain on the Norman Treigle Plaza with passed hors d’oeuvres and a signature cocktail, Violetta’s Delight. On the mezzanine, the donor-diners enjoyed catering by the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. A roasted pear salad, chianti-braised beef shorts, and tiramisu were the taste treats. The visual ones were the decorative touches, such as white gossamer fabric with twinkling lights on the back wall, tables dressed in ivory and rose linens and ribbons, and the votive candles and fresh floral centerpieces, featuring silk fans and roses in shades of pink and violet, atop the tables.
Delightfully sated, the Opening Night-ers then indulged in the aural (and many visual) pleasures of the opera, “La traviata. It was conducted by maestro Lyall and directed by De La Salle graduate, James Marvel, whose last name was indicative of what he staged.